A Singular Baptism (Carlos J. Server)

I received a free copy of A Singular Baptism in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Calling Lucía’s family unusual would be an understatement.  With all of them gathered on the beautiful island of El Hierro for the baptism of her son, Agrimiro, she has her hands full. Between juggling not only her own family, but her husband’s, Lucía also must try to figure out if her suspicions about her son’s paternity are real or just a misunderstanding. It all adds up to a weekend that is destined to be unforgettable.

As with his previous novel, A Lucky Day (see my review here), Carlos J. Server once again delivers a cast of fun, quirky characters in somewhat unusual situations. While they were definitely fun to read about, I was certainly left thinking that at least my family isn’t that nuts. Well… most of the time.

While there were a few times where it veered close to just flat crazy, overall it was a lighthearted take on a stressful situation. Think of your favorite rom-com, but less sappy. One particularly notable scene introduced me to a barraquito. This is something I’m going to have to try very soon. Googling “barraquito” also led me down the rabbit hole where I discovered the Spanish really seem to have this coffee thing down. I need to research more in person. Someday. But I digress…

A Singular Baptism, is, as it’s title suggests, unusual and definitely great fun. If you have wacky relatives of your own, you are sure to find yourself right at home among Lucía’s family. As we are entering the sweltering days of summer, it is the perfect book to kick back in the AC, pour a drink and imagine yourself on the gorgeous El Hierro… with or without your family.

A Lucky Day (Carlos J. Server)

I received a free copy of A Lucky Day in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Someone in the small French town of Sainte Marie has won the biggest prize the EuroMillions lottery has ever offered. Problem is, no one knows who that winner might be. What started as the happiest day the little town has had quickly sours as it becomes a race against the clock to find the winner and cash in the ticket before time runs out.

I’ll admit, it took me a little time to get into A Lucky Day. Each chapter is dated, and it turns out, you sort of need to pay attention to what those dates are. I didn’t. Since the story does not unfold in straight chronological order, I spent a few chapters totally confused. So, do yourself a favor and pay attention. It all makes much more sense when you do that.

There is also a fairly good sized cast of characters to try and keep straight. However, it is well worth the time to do so. From the village priest who just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut once he’s had a little wine to the mailman cherishing a flame for the wife of a not-so-nice baker, A Lucky Day is filled with quirky, often endearing characters.

The book definitely keeps you guessing right up until the very end. It can also be counted upon for a happy ending for pretty much everyone… including those I would consider to be the villains of the piece. After a few weeks where there doesn’t seem to be much good news coming out of the world, A Lucky Day served as a nice break from reality. It was a little reminder that sometimes things do work out.

Death by Roses (Vivian R. Probst)

I received a free copy of Death by Roses in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

When Art McElroy Sr. brings his wife a dozen roses, the first flowers he’s ever bought her during their marriage, he has no idea that in just hours he will discover her dead, on the toilet. The loss of Mae Rose leaves a void in his life he could never have anticipated. But, it turns out Mae Rose is far from ready to give up meddling in the lives of her family.

After she gets herself kicked out of the afterlife, Mae Rose wakes up inside the body of Mary Broadmoor, a writer and horror move director. Mary is after one big hit that can win her an Oscar before terminal cancer takes her. Will these two strong women be able to co-exist and untangle the mess of both of their lives?

When I first started to get into this book, I became a little concerned. I was really fearful that this was going to be a warm and fuzzy book. Cheesy is ok, but I don’t really do warm and fuzzy. I was dreading trying to get through it.

Lucky me, it didn’t take much longer for me to be pleasantly surprised. It WAS warm and fuzzy, but in a good way. I don’t say that often. After reading quite a few books that were much darker in tone (even if they were great books) this was a breath of fresh air. Obviously, we’re dealing with death and the afterlife here and there are parts that are sad. However, taken as a whole, the book was a pretty lighthearted approach and you are left in the end with good feelings overall.

The one sort of out of place thing for me was relationship of Mary’s hospice nurse and doctor. I just found him to be a total creep. I get this point of the story is about second chances, but personally I would have called him a sex offender/potential serial killer and run for the hills, dreamboat or not. But, to each their own, I suppose.

It was funny, quirky and hard to put down. If this is only Vivian R. Probst‘s first novel, I can’t wait to read more!

Other Books I’ve Been Reading

If you keep track of my little Goodreads shelf over on the sidebar, you may have noticed I’m reading quite a few books that I’m not writing up. There are several reasons for this. Some were just bad. Others were ok, but I didn’t have strong enough feelings about them to write an entire review. Yet others are books I’ll be reviewing at a later date.

I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty summary of some of those, since just because I didn’t rave about them, doesn’t mean you won’t.

Useless Bay (MJ Beaufrand)

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This was actually a fairly enjoyable book. Geared more toward middle grades, it was really well written, but left too many questions hanging for me to really enjoy it thoroughly. It centers around the larger than life Gray quintuplets, the unofficial search and rescue team of Whidbey Island. This one is out October 18.

 

Chasing Embers (James Bennett)

I really want to like urban fantasy, but I nearly always struggle with them. This one isn’t bad, a little wordy at times but a fairly solid read. I have a soft spot for dragons, so that may be part of the appeal for me. I can’t really gush about it, but I will likely read the next book when it comes out.

A Rustle of Silk (Alys Clare)

A decent mystery set against the backdrop of early Stuart England.  Overall, it was an enjoyable mystery, but there were a few moments that I didn’t really think fit and overall the mystery was just a little too easily solved for me. I won’t give away exactly what those parts were, but just be fair warned if you decide to pick this one up.

The Apothecary’s Curse (Barbara Bennett)

This urban fantasy, I actually did enjoy. The story moves between modern and Victorian timelines, but I found that kept me really interested. Victorian doctor Simon Bell and and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune became immortal and now must stop a modern pharmaceutical from exploiting their secret.

Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.)

Talk about books that will make your skin crawl, this was beyond just creepy. Much of the story is told in Dennis Rader’s own words and while it’s interesting, it’s also scary as hell.

Garden District Gothic (Greg Herren)

It could be that I wasn’t super excited about this book because I hadn’t read any of the others in the series (this is the 7th Scotty Bradley book). The worst part for me was that the mystery seemed to be just too easily solved. It had the build up to be a really great mystery and I was really let down. I was a little iffy at the beginning because it really seemed to want to be the gayest thing that ever was gay, but things leveled off so that I wasn’t constantly saying to myself, “OK, I get it, these guys are gay!” It’s gay fiction and it seriously wants you to know it. Regardless, ultimately I found the super easy wrap up to be the deal breaker here.

Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays (Mike MacDonald, Jilly Gagnon)

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I wanted to love this. It was (supposed) to be pure nostalgia for me, since I grew up with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. This was a humorous take on how much the holidays can suck. It was okay, I suppose. Cute. But, it was clearly written from a purely male perspective and I quickly lost interest.

The Private Lives of the Tudors (Tracy Borman)

I absolutely loved this one. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a passion for all things Tudor and this really gave me a lot of new insight into the everyday lives of the Tudor monarchs. I decided to forgo a full review of this one, just because I don’t know many people that would get as excited about the minutiae of Henry VIII’s private life as I do.

The Red Ripper (Peter Conradi)

Another book about a creepy serial killer, this time it’s Russian killer Andrei Chikatilo. It was an interesting read, but didn’t really expand on anything I hadn’t read previously.

My Lady Jane (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows)

I’ve been nuts about the Tudors for years. My collection of both fiction and nonfiction books about the Tudor clan (especially Henry VIII) has grown pretty substantial over the years. I had come across this book on social media a few times, but really had no idea what it was about. Based solely on the cover image and title, I made the guess that we were dealing with a YA historical fiction about the doomed Lady Jane Grey. And I definitely wanted to read it. However, it had a few surprises waiting for me.

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Well all know I’m a sucker for a good cover. Courtesy HarperCollins.

I was partially right. The book IS about Lady Jane Grey. Turns out, it’s an alternate history. And has three authors. I was immediately skeptical (Three authors? Alternate history? Would this be a total carriage wreck? ), but decided to go ahead and press onward. This may be been partially due to the fact that I forgot I had the book on my library app. With only until 38 hours before it was due back. Challenge accepted.

Worth every minute. This book was so much fun. I also finished it with probably 10 hours to spare. Winner.

“How,” you say, “can a book about a teenager who gets her head chopped off possibly be fun?” Alternate history, people. It’s not exactly a true story. Take what you already know about Lady Jane Grey, add some magic, some modernized dialogue and TONS of pop culture references, and viola! You have My Lady Jane. This one is definitely going to take another reading for me to catch all of the pop culture references that were going on here. The Princess Bride, Monty Python, heck, I even caught a Jaws reference. I’m certain that there are others I missed.

So, the basics: It’s 1553 and sixteen year old King Edward VI is dying. Lord Dudley convinces him to replace his sisters Mary and Elizabeth in the line of succession with his bookish cousin and childhood friend Lady Jane Grey. One hasty marriage later to Gifford Dudley, the younger son of Edward’s chief minister, and Jane becomes the Queen of England after Edward’s death. She was queen for nine days until the Privy Council switched sides and Mary took back the throne.

The first part of the story more or less follows history here. Beyond that… well… you’ll just have to read it. I cannot recommend it enough.

The extra good news is that the Lady Janies (as the authors call themselves, I love it!) have at least two more books planned rewriting the history of two more Janes from the past! How great is that?!?

For fans of history, the Tudors, fantasy or fun, this is just a no brainer.

Busted Flush (Brad Smith)

I received a free copy of Busted Flush from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

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Cover image via Endeavor Press

Dock Bass hates his job and is none to fond of his wife these days. After he learns from a lawyer that he’s inherited some property near Gettysburg, he’s more than happy to make a change. While renovating the Civil War era property he stumbles upon a veritable treasure trove of memorabilia. This includes a recording that might not only have predated Edison, but that might have the voice of Abraham Lincoln. It doesn’t take long for his tranquility to shatter when he is overrun with reporters and opportunists who all want a piece of Dock’s discovery. Can he stand up in the face of this onslaught?

It took me a few chapters to really warm to Busted Flush. The premise was an interesting one, but it started slow. But, after that I really get hooked. By the end, I couldn’t read fast enough, because I just HAD to know how everything was going to turn out. It was full of twists and turns that left me guessing until nearly the last page.

It didn’t hurt that the Civil War was involved. I obviously studied it as a kid in school, but recently got interested again after re-watching Ken Burn’s Civil War (which is amazing, if you haven’t seen it. And on Netflix. Just sayin’.). It isn’t set in the Civil War, but in modern Gettysburg, PA, and the history is a major focus.

The characters are brilliantly and clearly drawn, with quick, witty dialogue. They are all distinct and quirky. Dock’s taciturn silences are nicely balanced with his wit. Others you’ll love and some you’ll love to hate. No perfect characters here, they are all flawed, which makes them wonderfully realistic.

Busted Flush is clever and funny, a wonderful way to add a little excitement to a lazy summer day. A quick scan of Brad Smith’s website suggests his other books will probably be just as interesting.

Modern Romance: An Investigation (Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg)

Let me preface this by saying that I have some guilt about this review. Firstly, because I hate making my first review a not entirely positive one. Secondly, because I think Aziz Ansari is brilliant, and incredibly funny. But I truly struggled with this book. Give me a few days and I can finish about any book. It took me more than a month and a library renewal to force myself though Modern Romance.

And I feel unbelievably terrible about it. Particularly when everyone else I know that read it thought it was great. I normally don’t really care about going against the crowd, but sometimes when it comes to books, I have more difficult time of it. I want to like books. All of them. I really, really, really wanted to love this one. I just couldn’t do it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue lately. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers. Yes, Please. Bossypants. All written by comedians I typically can’t get enough of, all absolutely painful for me to get through. Nothing against Nick Offerman, Amy Poheler, and Tina Fey. They seriously rock my face off 99.9% of the time.

Modern Romance is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an in depth look at dating and love in modern society. I’ll be honest: I was in this for the comedy. I care about the dating world insofar as I have participated in it now and again. That’s where my interest ends. I’m certainly not interested in analyzing it to death.

There was plenty going on in the book that would seemingly apply to my life. I met my boyfriend online, which is a huge part of the book. I’ve had issues in the past with social media/cellphones being involved in infidelity. Despite that, I had trouble getting through more than a few pages without losing the battle with sleep. So, on the plus side, it did help somewhat with my insomnia.

I just don’t have a great deal of interest in sociology. It was boring beyond belief in college and it was boring for me now. To me, this just proves that even with the most interesting voice, I’m never going to be a fan of the topic.

I won’t say there wasn’t any humor here. There were a few chuckles. There were also a few parts that hit close to life for me. It was certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read. It just wasn’t for me. Overall, I just can’t recommend this book. But, if sociology is your thang… well you might love it.